All Good Things

Don’t flush that data: what our poop tells us

06.04.20

If something is feeling off with your body, you may have access to more information about why than you realize. Every time you poop, your body is telling you something. It is one of the most important functions our bodies complete daily. It is a concrete end-point to the process of absorbing nutrients from the foods we put into our body and collecting the things we no longer need. It announces, “You know all that stuff you ate and drank? I turned it into you!”

If you start paying attention — just take a quick look before you flush! — there are a number of messages your body may be trying to send you through your poop: What does my body like to eat these days? Is there anything my body doesn’t love to eat? Does the time of day I eat impact ‘the final product’? How does my sleep, travel, and stress change my digestive process?

Below are some translations, from the language of your body into English, along with some tips on what to do based on what you see.

Reading your data

There are four main things to pay attention to when investigating your poop: 1) Consistency, 2) Regularity, 3) Buoyancy, 4) Color.

1) Consistency

In addition to consistency, take notice of the shape and texture. Does your poop look like:

Hard, pebble-like pieces

The message: This is a sign of constipation. An Ayurvedic practitioner may suggest that there is an excess of vata disrupting your digestion.

Try this: Up your intake of cooked veggies by roasting, sauteing or stir frying them. Adding veggie soups, congee and kitchari to your diet is also recommended. Also, increase your water intake. Instead of just plain water, try warm water with lemon and/or fresh herbs. If these recommendations don’t work after a week, try taking triphala and/or psyllium husk with water in the morning or before bed. If your poop remains like this for multiple weeks, you may want to talk to your health practitioner.

Firm, sausage-shaped and lumpy

The message: This is an indicator that things are getting a little backed up.

Try this: Up your fiber and water intake via the same recommendations as above. If these recommendations don’t work after a week, try taking triphala capsules and/or psyllium husk with water in the morning or before bed. Pro tip: Try getting your daily dose of psyllium husk in the form of our Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies ;)

Solid, sausage-shaped and smooth or with visible surface cracks

The message: Your body is digesting your food well.

Try this: Keep up the great work!

Soft, formed pieces with defined edges

The message: Your fiber intake may be imbalanced and/or there could be a disruption to your gut bacteria. An Ayurvedic practitioner may suggest that there is an excess of pitta disrupting your digestion.

Try this: Eat more soluble and insoluble fiber-packed foods. Soluble fiber helps protect your gut from inflammation. Insoluble fiber creates bulk and will firm up a looser pitta stool slowing down food passage through your intestines and giving you more time to absorb precious nutrients. Garbanzo beans and red kidney beans are high in both types of fiber so you can multitask! A balance of varied fruits and veggies in your diet should give you the right amount of fiber you need for formed stools.

Light, fluffy pieces with frayed edges and a mushy texture

The message: This is a sign of diarrhea possibly from inflammation or eating a food(s) your body doesn’t like.

Try this: Start paying even closer attention to your poop consistency patterns: Does this type of poop happen after eating certain foods in moderation? What about eating them in abundance? If you take note of the patterns for a week, you may be able to draw conclusions about which food groups to increase or decrease in your diet. If you are unable to figure out what foods or lifestyle changes are causing the imbalance after a week, it may be time to talk to your health practitioner.

Undigested food pieces in your poop

The message: This is likely normal, especially if it is veggie matter, because a lot of veggies contain cellulose which humans lack enzymes to digest.

Try this: Focus on chewing your food more thoroughly and slowly. This will help ensure you break down the foods well enough for your body to fully digest.

Liquid stool

The message: This is diarrhea and may be a sign of severe inflammation.

Try this: If you are experiencing liquid stool regularly even after diet modifications, it is best to consult your health practitioner.

2) Regularity

If you poop on a regular schedule

The message: This is a great sign everything is working properly!

Try this: To continue to ensure regularity, it is important to also eat meals and sleep on a regular schedule. It is all part of your circadian rhythm which is very important for overall health. Why? Check out our Learnings from Ayurveda.

If you poop less than three times a week

The message: This is an indicator that things are getting a little backed up.

Try this: Increase your intake of cooked veggies by roasting, sauteing or stir frying them. Adding veggie soups, congee and kitchari to your diet is also recommended. Also, increase your water intake. Instead of just plain water, try warm water with lemon and/or fresh herbs. You can also try taking a magnesium supplement to help your body send more water to your bowels. Taking triphala capsules and/or psyllium husk with water in the morning or before bed. Triphala has been used in Ayurveda throughout the ages for its many benefits, such as promoting efficient digestion, absorption, elimination, and rejuvenation. If your poop remains like this for multiple weeks, you may want to talk to your health practitioner.

If you poop three or more times a day

The message: This is a sign of diarrhea possibly from inflammation or eating a food(s) your body doesn’t like.

Try this: Eat more soluble and insoluble fiber-packed foods. Soluble fiber helps protect your gut from inflammation. Insoluble fiber creates bulk and will firm up a looser pitta stool slowing down food passage through your intestines and giving you more time to absorb precious nutrients. Garbanzo beans and red kidney beans are high in both types of fiber so you can multitask! A balance of varied fruits and veggies in your diet should give you the right amount of fiber you need for formed stools.

3) Buoyancy

Generally, your poop should sink.

If your poop is solid and occasionally floats

The message: It could just be that you ate a large amount of fiber that day.

Try this: Try taking note of your poop buoyancy patterns for a week. You may be able to draw conclusions about which food groups to increase or decrease in your diet.

If your poop is oily and occasionally floats

The message: it could be a sign that you just ate a high fat diet that day (like pizza!)

Try this: Try taking note of your poop buoyancy patterns for a week. You may be able to draw conclusions about which food groups to increase or decrease in your diet.

If your poop is an oil slick and regularly floats

The message: It may be a sign you aren’t digesting fat properly.

Try this: If your poop is oily and regularly floats even after diet adjustments, you may want to talk to your health practitioner.

4) Color

Healthy poop is typically a range of shades of brown, because as your food digests, bile and enzymes create the standard brown we all associate with our poop. Other colors, such as green (too much bile), yellow (too much fat), black (food-related or bleeding), gray (not enough bile) or red (food-related or bleeding) may be an indicator of something more serious, and you may want to consult your health practitioner.

As always, these tips work best in conjunction with eating high-quality, whole, fresh foods that you enjoy at regular times of day and striving for a healthy gut. Gut health (aka agni) is a critical underlying component of all forms of health and recovery, because it enables us to properly absorb and incorporate the nutrients our immune system needs to heal. For more about Agni’s food philosophy, check out What to eat to fuel your agni and visit www.agniforall.com.